Under the magnolia

Every spring Martin briefly brandishes his green thumb. With credit card in hand he putters off in Chitty and returns a couple of hours later with a trowel, a garden hose, a few sacks of mulch (martin loves mulch), and a pallet of flowers.

Unfortunately by summer, all that remains of his spring plantings are a few lumpy mounds of earthy compost. Inevitably, the hose is forgotten in the high grass and becomes the first of many victims, struck down by our merciless lawn mower.

And regular watering sessions are abandoned. A dry day turns into two, then three, then more and the flowers double over, clasping their midsections, gasping for liquid sustenance. They wilt, fold into themselves and disappear. (This year, a hungry rabbit put the flowers out of their misery before dehydration set in.)

So aside from the fruit bearing bushes and trees — which thrive despite lack of care — only one other planting has withstood the test of time in our yard.

The shower beneath our magnolia tree.

Four years have passed since Martin announced his plans to strap a shower to the side of our house, under the kitchen window and the magnolia tree. He wanted to wash under a ceiling of blue sky and step onto a bath mat of green grass.

I thought the idea was kooky. Why shower under a tree when there’s functioning plumbing and a plethora of bathing supplies indoors?

But he was determined. And frankly, it wasn’t a bad idea to wash up outside when we were filthy from moving manure, or covered in lawn clippings or paint from the fences.

But I wasn’t too keen on Martin’s natural shower curtain: the magnolia and a few boxwoods. Sure, the greenery would spare the neighbors who cruised up the drive, but if they came around the back of the house, there we’d be — in our birthday suits, showering under a tree.

So, a basic wooden shower stall was constructed to prevent any indecent exposure charges. Yet even with this wood siding, I still jump when I hear gravel crunch under tires.

But I’ll give Martin props: the outdoor shower is oddly pleasant. In the evenings, after a sweaty day of toiling in the barn or chasing kids, it’s calming to stand under that shower head and watch the sky darken as birds swoop overhead. It’s peaceful — just the pitter-pat of water and the occasional snort from the horses, their noses buried in clover. And one evening after a storm last summer, I was even greeted by a rainbow, in all its hues, arching against the sky.

Martin still has some truly kooky ideas. He likes to eat ramen noodles topped with peanut butter and salad dressing. He wants to buy a used military truck to run errands on the weekends. And if you stood too long in one spot in the yard, he’d probably mulch your feet.

But the crazy outdoor shower? That wasn’t such a bad idea after all.